The pro-disease, pro-suffering, pro-early death, anti-science caucus in the Wisconsin legislature is winning another fight.
Their latest effort: A bill to ban "cloning," which passed the Assembly last week.
Those pushing the bill are the same coalition of narrow-minded zealots who would deny women access to birth control, let alone abortion.
They call themselves "pro-life" and argue that life begins somewhere around the time a couple goes on its first date, or, as Margaret Wertheim wrote in the LA Weekly
, "Life begins at 'Want a Cigarette?'"
So, naturally, they oppose embryonic stem cell research.
No matter that such research has the potential, most agree, to find cures for an array of diseases, including Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's and more, as well as treatment for people with spinal cord injuries.
Embryonic stem cell research, in the long run, could enhance, improve, prolong and save the lives of people who are now long-suffering. It is not a magical cure-all, but the underlying basic research could have widespread ripple effects we can't even imagine at this point.
But the zealots press on and, as is the case with abortion, have far more influence in the Wisconsin legislature than they should. Two-thirds of the people in Wisconsin support embryonic stem cell research, according to a number of polls. But human cloning is another matter, and the opponents have been able to frame it as a debate on cloning when it is really about stem cell research.
Lawmakers continue to dance to the tune of Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life. But why let them frame the debate? Let's call them what they are: Pro-Disease Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Suffer.
Their latest effort is passing a state law to ban cloning -- not just cloning of human beings, but therapeutic cloning, which create more cells for research, not more people.
Supporters of the bill argued that if we allow therapeutic cloning, it will open the door to cloning people, and the next thing you know, we'll have a whole posse of John Gards running around. (Actually, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton suggested Spencer Black clones, never thinking that then he could run for gov and lt. gov at the same time. See JS blog.
Matt Sande, legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said any difference between reproductive and therapeutic cloning is "illusory. The only difference," he said, "lies in the intended use of the embryo."
"There are a lot of people out there who would love to clone babies," State Rep. Steve Kestell, the Republican who sponsored the bill, says. Wis. State Journal story.
That may be true. However, it's already illegal to do that. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at UW-Madison, said the Food and Drug Administration already has acted to restrict reproductive cloning. UW-Madison is implementing a set of ethical guidelines
developed by the National Academy of Sciences to regulate the use of cloning in research.
Instead of banning all cloning, Charo said, legislation should focus on reproductive cloning.
"To ask for more," Charo said, "is to halt basic research, is to sacrifice the diabetic children, the paralyzed veterans, the surgically maimed breast cancer victims, the skin- scorched firefighters and the declining elderly of the present for a future that is neither certain nor imminent."
This is not a partisan issue, although most of the opponents of the research are Republicans. Fifty GOP members of the U.S. House defied the President recently to vote for expanded federal funding for stem cell research, for example.
State Rep. Gregg Underheim, a free-thinking Republican, gave the Assembly a chance to make human reproductive cloning illegal, if that's what's really worrying them. He offered an amendment to do that -- to ban cloning people but allow stem cell research using therapeutic cloning to continue. That reasonable amendment failed, to no one's surprise.
As they have in the past, Wis. Manufacturers and Commerce President Jim Haney, Mark Bugher of University Research Park and Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council joined to urge the Legislature not to ban therapeutic cloning. It's noteworthy are that all three are Republicans.
"While we oppose on moral and ethical grounds human embryonic cloning for purposes of reproduction, carefully regulated therapeutic cloning for the purposes of medical research and the development on new diagnostic and therapeutic treatments and drugs is worthwhile and ethically defensible," the three wrote in a memo. "Any effort to ban therapeutic cloning would chill stem cell research in Wisconsin, which pioneered this science, and send the disturbing message that Wisconsin does not welcome responsible, ethical research conducted by our top scientists."
The bill is in the State Senate this week, where the outcome is less certain.
If it does survive the Senate, Gov. Jim Doyle, who is anti-disease, anti-suffering, and anti-early death, says he will veto the bill.
in the Journal Sentinel put the issue in understandable terms. In case I haven't, you might want to go there.JAMIE THOMSON INTERVIEW.
MSNBC offers a long Q-A with Jamie Thomson, the UW-Madison researcher who is on the cutting edge of stem cell research. State Rep. Steve Kestell, sponsor of the anti-cloning bill, and WTMJ talker Charlie Sykes, who opposes cloning, want you to read it. So do I. There are quotes that -- lifted out of the interview to stand alone -- can be used to bolster arguments on both sides. But there is also some good general information, including graphics on the first page that show, step by step, how stem cells are harvested. Link.